Ontario NDP candidate Sarah Jama has been elected as the new member of provincial parliament for Hamilton Centre.
The byelection was called last month to replace former Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath, who resigned as MPP in the summer and was elected as the mayor of Hamilton in October.
Horwath held the seat since 2004 and consistently won with wide margins.
Jama has secured 54 per cent of the vote with all 53 polls reporting and was generally expected to win Thursday’s byelection, despite criticism of some of her activism.
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She is the executive director and co-founder of the Disability Justice Network of Ontario and co-founded the Hamilton Encampment Support Network, among other community involvement, but Jewish organization B’nai Brith has condemned her as a “radical anti-Israel advocate.”
A video clip from a pro-Palestinian protest in 2021 captured Jama calling Israel an “illegitimate” country and accusing Hamilton police of “protecting Nazism” by targeting Muslim and Palestinians organizers.
Jama has said the criticism has centered around what she describes as standing up for Palestinian human rights, which shouldn’t be conflated with anti-Semitism.
In a statement released just hours before polls closed Thursday, Jama apologized to the Jewish community for her “harmful” comments.
NDP MPP candidate Sarah Jama at a Samidoun-affiliated event in Toronto in 2021. Jama insinuates that the same people who control Israel “will continue to fund the killing of people here, locally, and globally.” #hamont #Antisemitism #onpoli 1/6 🧵 pic.twitter.com/pUpQdYCiUH
— Documenting Antisemitism (@AntisemitismCA) March 12, 2023
“Jewish people deserve to feel safe, and should never be targeted because of their faith or their culture,” Jama said.
“If elected, I will be an MPP for everyone, and I will work to bring communities together to fight back against hate. I pledge to speak out against anti-Semitism and show up for the community when I am needed.”
Ten candidates representing seven different parties ran to become the riding’s new MPP.
Liberal candidate Deirdre Pike also ran for that party in the riding in 2018.
READ MORE: Ontario NDP leader shows support for Hamilton Centre candidate Sarah Jama
Progressive Conservative candidate Peter Wiesner, Green candidate Lucia Iannantuono and six other candidates also ran.
During advance voting, about five per cent of those eligible cast a ballot, compared to an 11 per cent advance voting turnout in the riding in the 2022 general election, Elections Ontario said.
Nearly 80,000 people were registered to vote in Hamilton Centre this year, but only 21.97 per cent cast their ballot for the byelection Thursday.
Unofficial results show that 17,612 voters in total cast a ballot with turnout numbers including those who voted
by mail, at the returning office, through home visit, during advance voting and on election day.
Low turnout usually favours the incumbent party, experts say.